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Gastroschisis: what it is, causes and treatment


Gastroschisis is a change in the baby’s abdominal wall in which a small hole is noticed in the abdomen, close to the navel. This change allows the intestine and, more rarely, other organs, such as the stomach or liver, to pass through the hole and become exposed, in contact with the amniotic fluid, which can cause inflammation and infection, bringing complications to the baby.

This condition is more common in young mothers who used, for example, aspirin or alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, causing the baby’s abdominal wall to not completely close during development.

Gastroschisis can be identified during pregnancy, through ultrasound performed during prenatal care, and treatment is started soon after the birth of the baby with the aim of preventing complications and favoring the entry of the intestine and subsequent closure of the abdominal opening. .

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How to identify gastroschisis

The main characteristic of gastroschisis is the visualization of the intestine outside the body through an opening near the navel, usually on the right side. In addition to the intestine, other organs can be seen through this opening that are not covered by a membrane, which increases the chance of infection and complications.

The main complications of gastroschisis are the non-development of part of the intestine or rupture of the intestine, as well as loss of fluids and nutrients in the baby, causing the baby to have low weight.

What is the difference between gastroschisis and omphalocele?

Both gastroschisis and omphalocele are congenital malformations, which can be diagnosed during pregnancy through prenatal ultrasound and which are characterized by the externalization of the intestine. However, what differentiates gastroschisis from omphalocele is the fact that in omphalocele the intestine and organs that may also be outside the abdominal cavity are covered by a thin membrane, while in gastroschisis there is no membrane surrounding the organ.

Furthermore, in omphalocele the umbilical cord is compromised and the intestine exits through an opening at the level of the navel, while in gastroschisis the opening is close to the navel and there is no involvement of the umbilical cord. Understand what omphalocele is and how it is treated.

Possible causes

The exact cause of gastroschisis is not completely known, however, it arises due to a malformation and development of the baby’s abdominal wall, resulting in the exit of the intestine or other organs, such as the stomach or liver, through the hole near the navel.

Some factors may contribute to the development of gastroschisis, such as:

  • Use of aspirin or ibuprofen during pregnancy;
  • Use of decongestants containing pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine during pregnancy;
  • Low Body Mass Index of the pregnant woman;
  • Mother’s age less than 20 years;
  • Smoking during pregnancy;
  • Frequent or excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages during pregnancy;
  • Recurrent urinary infections.

It is important that women whose children have been diagnosed with gastroschisis are monitored during pregnancy so that they are prepared regarding the baby’s condition, treatment after birth and possible complications.

How the treatment is carried out

Treatment for gastroschisis is carried out shortly after birth, and the doctor normally recommends the use of antibiotics as a way to prevent infections or combat infections already present. Additionally, the baby can be placed in a sterile bag to prevent infection by resistant microorganisms, which are common in a hospital environment.

If the baby’s abdomen is large enough, the doctor may perform surgery to place the intestine into the abdominal cavity and close the opening. However, when the abdomen is not large enough, the intestine can be kept protected from infections while the doctor monitors the return of the intestine to the abdominal cavity naturally or until the abdomen has the capacity to accommodate the intestine, performing surgery in followed.